Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

Three Chamber Operas at the Aix Festival

Along with the celestial Mozart Requiem, a doomed Tosca and a gloriously witty Mahagonny the Aix Festival’s new artistic director Pierre Audi regaled us with three chamber operas — the premiere of a brilliant Les Mille Endormis, the technically playful Blank Out (on a turgid subject), and a heavy-duty Jakob Lenz.

Herbert Howells: Choir of King’s College, Cambridge

The Choir of King’s College, Cambridge has played a role in the evolution of British music. This recording honours this heritage and Stephen Cleobury’s contribution in particular by focusing on Herbert Howells, who transformed the British liturgical repertoire in the 20th century.

Laurent Pelly's production of La Fille du régiment returns to Covent Garden

French soprano Sabine Devieilhe seems to find feisty adolescence a neat fit. I first encountered her when she assumed the role of a pill-popping nightclubbing ‘Beauty’ - raced from ecstasy-induced wonder to emergency ward - when I reviewed the DVD of Krzysztof Warlikowski’s production of Handel’s Il trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno at Aix-en-Provence in 2016.

The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny in Aix

Make no mistake, this is about you! Jim laid-out dead on the stage floor, conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen brought his very loud orchestra (London’s Philharmonia) to an abrupt halt. Black out. The maestro then turned his spotlighted face to confront us and he held his stare. There was no mistake, the music was about us.

Mozart's Travels: Classical Opera and The Mozartists at Wigmore Hall

There was a full house at Wigmore Hall for Classical Opera’s/The Mozartists’ final concert of the 2018-19 season: a musical paysage which chartered, largely chronologically, Mozart’s youthful travels from London to The Hague, on to Paris, then Rome, concluding - following stop-overs in European cultural cities such as Munich and Vienna - with an arrival at his final destination, Prague.

Tosca in Aix

From the sublime — the Mozart Requiem — to the ridiculous, namely stage director Christophe Honoré's Tosca. A ridiculous waste of operatic resources.

A terrific, and terrifying, The Turn of the Screw at Garsington

One might describe Christopher Oram’s set for Louisa Muller’s new production of The Turn of the Screw at Garsington as ‘shabby chic’ … if it wasn’t so sinister.

Mozart Requiem in Aix

Pierre Audi, now the directeur général of the Festival d’Aix as well as the artistic director of New York City’s Park Avenue Armory opens a new era for this distinguished opera festival in the south of France with a new work by the Festival’s signature composer, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

A Rachmaninov Drama at Middle Temple Hall

It is Rachmaninov’s major works for orchestra - the Second and Third Piano Concertos, the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, the Symphonic Dances - alongside the All-Night Vespers and the music for solo piano, which have earned the composer a permanent place in the concert repertoire today.

Fun, Frothy, and Frivolous: L’elisir d’amore at Las Vegas

There are a dizzying array of choices for music entertainment in Las Vegas ranging from Celine Dion and Cher to Paul McCartney and Aerosmith. Admittedly, these performers are a far cry from opera, but the point is that Las Vegas residents have many options when it comes to live music.

McVicar's production of Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro returns to the Royal Opera House

David McVicar's production of Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, has been a remarkable success since it debuted in 2006. Set with the Count of Almaviva's fearfully grand household in 1830, McVicar's trick is to surround the principals by servants in a supra-naturalistic production which emphasises how privacy is at a premium.

The Cunning Little Vixen at the Barbican Hall

The presence of a large cast of ‘animals’ in Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen can encourage directors and designers to create costume-confections ranging from Disney-esque schmaltz to grim naturalism.

Barbe-Bleue in Lyon

Stage director Laurent Pelly is famed for his Offenbach stagings, above all others his masterful rendering of Les Contes d’Hoffmann as a nightmare. Mr. Pelly has staged eleven of Offenbach’s ninety-nine operettas over the years (coincidently this production of Barbe-Bleue is Mr. Pelly’s ninety-eighth opera staging).

Mieczysław Weinberg: Symphony no. 21 (“Kaddish”)

Mieczysław Weinberg witnessed the Holocaust firsthand. He survived, though millions didn’t, including his family. His Symphony no. 21 “Kaddish” (Op. 152) is a deeply personal statement. Yet its musical qualities are such that they make it a milestone in modern repertoire.

The Princeton Festival Presents Nixon in China

The Princeton Festival has adopted a successful and sophisticated operatic programming strategy, whereby the annual opera alternates between a standard warhorse and a less known, more challenging work. Last year Princeton presented Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. This year the choice is Nixon in China by modern American composer John Adams, which opened before a nearly full house of appreciative listeners.

Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel at Grange Park Opera

When Engelbert Humperdinck's sister, Adelheid Wette, wrote the libretto to Hansel and Gretel the idea of a poor family living in a hut near the woods, on the bread-line, would have had an element of realism to it despite the sentimental layers which Wette adds to the tale.

Handel’s Belshazzar at The Grange Festival

What a treat to see members of The Sixteen letting their hair down. This was no strait-laced post-concert knees-up, but a full on, drunken orgy at the court of the most hedonistic ruler in the Old Testament.

Kenshiro Sakairi and the Tokyo Juventus Philharmonic in Mahler’s Eighth

Although some works by a number of composers have had to wait uncommonly lengthy periods of time to receive Japanese premieres - one thinks of both Mozart’s Jupiter and Beethoven’s Fifth (1918), Handel’s Messiah (1929), Wagner’s Parsifal (1967), Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliette (1966) and even Bruckner’s Eighth (1959, given its premiere by Herbert von Karajan) - Mahler might be considered to have fared somewhat better.

Don Giovanni in Paris

A brutalist Don Giovanni at the Palais Garnier, Belgian set designer Jan Versweyveld installed three huge, a vista raw cement towers that overwhelmed the Opéra Garnier’s Second Empire opulence. The eight principals faced off in a battle royale instigated by stage director Ivo van Hove. Conductor Philippe Jordan thrust the Mozart score into the depths of expressionistic conflict.

A riveting Rake’s Progress from Snape Maltings at the Aldeburgh Festival

Based on Hogarth’s 18th-century morality tale in eight paintings and with a pithy libretto by W.H. Auden and Chester Kallman, Stravinsky’s operatic farewell to Neo-classicism charts Tom Rakewell’s ironic ‘progress’ from blissful ignorance to Bedlam.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

25 Aug 2018

The Barber of Seville
at the Rossini Opera Festival

Oh no, not another Barber! Well, it is the 150th anniversary of the world’s greatest opera composer so what better way to commemorate the occasion than to program his most famous opera! And hope for the best.

Il barbiere di Siviglia at the 2018 Pesaro Festival

A review by Michael Milenski

Above: Maxim Mironov as Almaviva, Davide Luciano as Figaro [All photos by Studio Amati Bacciardi, courtesy of the Rossini Opera Festival, Pesaro]

 

And the best it was, though Canadian born Europe based conductor Yves Abel had some formidable competition for being the star of the show, namely 88 year old Pier Luigi Pizzi who staged it. In turn Signor Pizzi was upstaged by Italian baritone Davide Luciano, Seville’s factotum Figaro. But even he disappeared into the shadows when Russian tenor Maxim Mironov cut loose with his brilliant “Cessa di piu resistere,” that closes the show.

Never has the patter been more cuttingly precise at breakneck speed than when Italian bass baritone Pietro Spagnoli unleashed his “A un doctor della mia sorte” nor has the malicious pleasure of “La calunnia è un venticello” been more indulged than when intoned by Italian bass Michele Pertusi.

Barber2_Pesaro2.pngMichele Pertusi as Basilio, Pietro Spagnoli as Bartolo

That Rossini himself became the true star of the show can only be credited to stage director Pizzi who stripped the comedy of any specific scenic context using only a white box, anonymous white architecture, white furniture, a visual technique that thrust his actors and Rossini’s singers into high relief. The octogenarian stage director instilled an energy of personality into this production that effected the comic process — the triumph of youth over age — in monumental terms. It was the all too rare proof that Il barbiere is indeed one of the repertoire’s greatest masterpieces.

The overwhelming atmosphere of the production was that of youth, from Fiorello, sung by Venetian baritone William Corrò, to Almaviva and to Rosina, sung by splendid Japanese mezzo soprano Aya Wakizono, and finally, and even most of all to Figaro who stripped to his culottes, jumped into the fountain and then did a beefcake parade along the catwalk fronting the orchestra pit regaling us with his “Largo al factotum!”

None of this possible, of course, without conductor Abel who propelled Rossini’s numbers onto plateaux of lyricism that bordered on delirium. Of greater accomplishment was perhaps the pacing the maestro imposed on Rossini’s parade of blockbuster numbers, allowing us to savor each of them to the fullest but leaving us resource to sink ourselves into the opera’s two gigantic finales.

There was virtually no comic schtick (sight gags) in Pizzi’s production, the innate charm of each of its virtuoso singers needing no embellishment to create character. Except the music lesson scene which itself is nothing but schtick, and usually annoying. Director Pizzi solved this in simple strokes. There was no piano. Fiorello mimicked a cello for “L’inutil precauzione” conducted by Almaviva disguised as a dwarf. When it was Bartolo’s turn to show how to sing Sig. Spagnoli leapt into falsetto soprano!

Barbar2_Pesaro3.pngAlmaviva disguised as dwarf music teacher [shoes on knees], Figaro, Basilio and Rosina

Note that before the performance I had spotted three little people among the spectators. Hopefully they enjoyed the comedy of such travesty (Almaviva had shoes on his knees) made transparent when Almaviva jumped to his feet from time to time when Bartolo wasn’t looking).

Not to forget that the storm was nothing more than the throes of fever that overtook Rosina when she thought Lindoro was betraying her, reinforcing stage director Pizzi’s firm commitment to comedy of character.

Esteemed Italian character mezzo soprano Elena Zilio sang Berta, sharing the tasks of Ambrogio, charmingly and broadly played by actor Armando de Ceccon, with little more to do that just be there to answer the door and bring in the laundry. Sig.ra Zilio’s “aria di sorbetto” “il vechhiotto cerca moglie” was met with huge applause. Note that in Rossini times sorbet was hawked near the end of a performance where such secondary arias were placed.

Sig. Pizzi directed, designed both sets and costumes, and designed the lighting with his associate Massimo Gasparon. The elegance of the costume design — abstracted formal wear in black and white, with Rosina in various solid colors — well served the elegance of the singing.

In his formative years Pier Luigi Pizzi worked as a designer with Giorgio Strehler and Luca Ronconi, incorporating much of mid-twentieth century Italian avant garde into his theatrical vocabulary. He made his Pesaro Rossini Opera Festival debut in 1982 with Tancredi. During the 1980’s as well he both designed and directed productions at San Francisco Opera, notably Simon Boccanegra, Semiramide and Orlando Furioso (though these credits are not included on Wikipedia). His productions have appeared in all of the world’s major theaters.

The male chorus of the Teatro Ventidio Basso (an historic opera house in Ascoli Piceno, a town halfway between Pesaro and Rome) was the raucous police force. The Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale Della RAI (Italian Radio/Television) were the polished collaborators of maestro Abel.

Michael Milenski


Cast and production information: 

Il Conte d’Almaviva: Marim Mironov; Bartolo: Pietro Spagnoli; Rosina: Aya Wakizono; Figaro: David Luciano; Basilio: Michele Pertusi; Berta: Elena Zilio; Fiorello/Ufficiale: William Corrò. Chorus of the Teatro Ventidio Basso, Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della RAI. Conductor: Yves Abel; Regia, Scene e Costumi: Pier Luigi Pizzi; Regista collaboratore e Luci: Massimo Gasparon. Arena Adriatica, Pesaro, August 19, 2018.

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):